Apart from the tea estates, Munnar is renowned for its vast expanse of Neelakurinji. This legendary flower blooms once in 12 years and cover the Munnar mountain scapes with a blue blanket of flowers. Neela means blue in Malayalam language and Kurinji the local name of the flower. It last bloomed in 2018 and is expected to bloom in 2030. It sometimes blooms in small quantities, at that time very few plants flowers.
Neelakurinji is passionately called by botanists as Strobilanthes kunthianum. Found plenty in the Shola grasslands and the Western Ghats and Nilgris in India, Neelakurinji is a bush having clustered branches. The flowering season is from August to November, the peak time being September and October. The flower exhibits a light blue colour during the early stages of blooming and turns to a purplish blue colour when it is matured. There are about 300 species of plants that blooms once in 10 to 16 years and out of these 46 are found in India.
When Neelakurinji blooms, no wonder then, the talk of the Munnar town is nothing but the blooming of Neelakurinji. No one wants to miss the chance otherwise you will have to wait more than a decade to see it again. Four to Five lakh people visit Munnar when Neelakurinji blooms.
Though this flower has been a familiar subject for poets and for the hill folk. The Muduvar tribe, which inhabits the Munnar mountain ranges, calculates its age with blossoming of the Kurinji. In Tamil Sangam poems there are quite a few references to this flower.
Kurinjimala Sanctuary protects endangered Neelakurinji plant in Munnar. The Save Kurinji Campaign Council organises campaigns and programmes for conservation of the Kurinji plant and its habitat.